Looking to make more sense of this, a pair of senior analysts from Saugatuck Technology, a consulting/research firm known lately for examining cloud and service technologies, conducted a survey that Information Management participated in.
Saugatuck VP Mike West and SVP Bruce Guptil were lead creators and analysts looking at the what, how and why of "social business technology" -- Saugatuck's chosen term -- as it exists today.
Saugatuck's definition, which you'll find near the top of the story, is about personal, business-centered interaction, and includes everything from public platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn, to corporate tools like Chatter and Yammer. They also looked at blogs and wikis and document collaboration tools.
There are lots of ways to set boundaries around social media. Our own editors see the space usually characterized by active people to people connections around a bit of information that tends to be move back and forth iteratively, if not synchronously. There's often some kind of search or index or file directory supporting these sharing tools and platforms.
But it's clear West and Guptil are onto something we can learn from so we sat down to dig into their thinking about some of the human behavior behind the social media phenomenon.
One of the findings in the survey was that business executives are more experienced using social business technologies than their IT counterpart execs. Why so?
Mike West, VP and distinguished analyst with Saugatuck Technology: It's not very surprising that innovation over the last 20 years has come in through the bathroom window via the business executive looking to get his job done in a way that's different from how IT thinks. Just one example, there was an article from the 1950s in Harvard Business Review about differences between business and IT executives. Even way back then it was found that IT executives were much more "structured" as individuals and very process oriented, whereas business executives were very results oriented. Today, business executives [are going to] use whatever it takes to get the job done without that much concern for formal process whereas IT executives are more about formal process. Structured technologies like transaction technologies are easy to understand and manage for efficiency and that's like an emblem for the IT executive. But something like social media with no real defined model for payback -- even though it might provide real economic advantage -- is more appealing to the business executives who tend to adopt these things first.
Bruce Guptil, SVP and head of research at Saugatuck Technology: This kind of observation is not unusual with a new type of IT that users find and latch onto. Personal computing was a similar thing, if you can see a use for something, get it and afford it, you will. It's really taken off with the consumerization of IT, with all the changes and point solutions in desktop computing, smartphones and mobile. Almost all of this comes in from the individual user or consumer side first and that's where the social technologies and IT comes in. People find Facebook and instant messaging, all kinds of apps on their smartphones, they use conferencing daily in their own lives and social lives and it's cheap or free so that's how it gets in. These people know that if they go through internal purchasing they have to go through evaluation, get all the formal stuff done. They're more interested in getting it now and even if they don't expense it it's no big deal.
And then the IT curse, if they are doing their job as they're trained, is that an audit trail appears and needs to be brought in house and assimilated and made compliant. They can't just cut off behavior on the network because of the way people work now and the way they are connected on devices. What has that created?
Mike West: There's clearly a frustration factor being generated in IT offices by business executives. The IT guys are throwing their hands in the air, it's just not working and they can't do IT like they used to. That has to be very frustrating for them but they also can't be holding things up by saying 'stop.' They have to find a way to manage even though it's not easy.
Bruce Guptil: For the last eight years Saugatuck has put out a State of the Cloud series of reports, what's changing or is going to change. A couple of years ago Mike and I were the primary authors, and the title of our report was, "Lead, Follow, AND get out of the way." That's what this is all about in the social context. At our Cloud Summit event it was the IT leaders from Fortune 50 companies standing in front of the room saying just that, old models don't work in a cloud based consumer easy access model. We have to set examples and lead practices that work and don't get in the way. We have to follow by understanding what it is our leaders are trying to do. We're not going to stop them unless we lock them up, they'll just keep doing it because they need results now and they get that with social business IT.
We have all seen this phenomenon in spreadsheets and simple databases too that were more about siloed information. Now it's also about people wanting to integrate data from relatively simple apps and that creates all kinds of data management and compliance problems along the way, right?